#GenderEqualityIs a safe and equal learning environment for both boys and girls

By Rose Fishman
February 7, 2018

#GenderEqualityIs a safe and equal learning environment for both boys and girls.

School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) is a significant problem in Burkina Faso. It can take many forms such as harassment, bullying, and physical and sexual abuse, resulting in serious consequences for girls’ education. These consequences include reduced enrollment, undermined participation and achievement, and increased absenteeism and dropout rates for female students.

Surveys completed in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that SRGBV is widespread and occurs on a daily basis, with girls as the primary targets. A 2009 study conducted in Burkina Faso showed that violence is common throughout the school system—in primary and secondary schools, public and private schools, and in rural and urban areas. In addition, more recent studies have shown that children in rural and peri-urban areas of Burkina Faso are at an increased risk of sexual abuse.

In December 2017, Plan International conducted a survey in two schools participating in Burkina Faso’s Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools (PEASS-BF) pilot project. Survey results showed that only 27 percent of female students and 61 percent of male students agreed that girls are safe from violence at school. On the other hand, 32 percent of female students and 67 percent of male students agreed that boys are safe from violence at school. These low percentages of perceived safety imply a significant problem in Burkina Faso.

In addition, inadequate Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) represents a significant barrier to girls’ attendance and participation in school. Many girls do not have access to the facilities, supplies, and knowledge needed to manage their menstruation safely, privately, and comfortably. Together, SRGBV and inadequate MHM seriously impact girls’ education, contributing to the gender gap seen in Burkina Faso’s education system, where women and girls have lower levels of education, school completion, and literacy than their male counterparts.

In order to increase safety and equality in schools, the PEASS-BF project is engaging post-primary girls, boys, and teachers using a gender-transformative approach to bring about positive shifts in attitudes and behaviors towards gender, violence, and menstruation. To accomplish this, the project, in partnership with Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Education, is providing teachers with SRGBV and MHM training that promotes equitable attitudes and gives teachers the skills and knowledge to respond to SRGBV and address MHM appropriately. This training will be cascaded down to students through positive role models, trained peer mentors, and the establishment of related school clubs. In order to create an enabling environment to help sustain positive change, PEASS-BF is not only engaging ministry officials, pedagogical advisors, teachers, and non-teaching staff, but also raising awareness of parents and surrounding communities.

While the trainings and awareness-raising sessions at the school and community levels will increase knowledge and understanding of issues affecting girls’ safety in schools, the project is also addressing student’s immediate needs through the establishment of a school-based violence reporting mechanism and the rehabilitation of school facilities to assist girls with MHM. Now entering its second year of implementation, the PEASS-BF project has successfully gained the support of the national and local government and community stakeholders who have played a critical role in creating and adapting SRGBV and MHM training materials, as well as building community awareness of the project. The project is moving forward with community engagement preparations and teacher trainings are currently in progress.

When the PEASS model was applied in Vietnam, Plan reached nearly 40,000 children and 1,800 teachers and school staff members. PEASS-BF is modifying this model for Burkina Faso and the countries in West Africa where Plan works. We hope that the model will be replicated, further reducing barriers to girls’ education around the world.